Energy Crunching Granola

I recently installed the Granola energy management software to my netbook just to see if it would eek out some extended battery life time. Initial results  look good and battery time has indeed been increased with no apparent effect on perceived speed or response.

Granola is available for linux and Windows desktops. It can also be deployed on VMware ESXi. It is free for personal use but has a very small cost licence which makes available much more detailed energy controls and monitoring options when deployed across many computers at the same address. Power saving results can be tracked over time via an online account which records your power usage data.

Available desktop stats are displayed in a slightly generalised way with preferences available to show annual or cumulative energy savings.

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Flying into the Jolicloud

I have a netbook (ooh I know soooo last year) and have been very happy with Linux Mint on it but have recently returned to Jolicloud which now has an HTML5 based desktop, easy install of apps in a that increasingly familiar app store way and fast web browsing via Chromium though Firefox and Opera are also available to install.

For existing windows users there is a 15Mb download installer that installs within windows to give a dual boot netbook with automatic access to Windows side files when running Jolicloud.

There’s is also easy access to many popular on-line file storage services including dropbox.

I must admit I’m very impressed with version 1.0 of Jolicloud which yields a good hybrid of local apps and data and those in the cloud. Though aimed specifically at the netbook form factor this desktop would be great for re purposed computers in the community or as a fast booting second desktop option for any windows user.


A Minty LXDE desktop at last

Linux Mint have issued a release candidate of their popular open source operating system based on the ultra lightweight LXDE desktop environment which is ideal for use on lower specification computers and netbooks. A quick test even from the live CD shows that the desktop is still fully featured though in common with the Xfce desktop it may not be fully compatible with running Adobe’s air platform. Otherwise everything else works very well.

I easily added the required Nvidia graphic card drivers and was able to add shortcuts to the desktop though found a familiar minor irritation in the shape of a missing Firefox shortcut icon which I have encountered before (some jigging about in the icons folder will fix that but it is a known bug).

The final release will be well worth downloading for extending the use of older computers (recycled or reused), together with laptops and netbooks. Linux Mint 8 ‘Helena’ LXDE is a free download.

Linux Mint 8 ‘Helena’ LXDE RC1

UPad if you want to

Steve Jobs at the WWDC 07
Image via Wikipedia

It’s been hard to escape the hype and expectation around Apple’s new iPad tablet device thingy. I’ve been a long term user of Apple computers (my first was a second hand Apple IIe way back when) though of late I’ve been using linux for everything aside from advanced audio and video production.

I’ve had little desire to own an iPhone and I can’t say I currently have an iPad shaped hole in my life. That’s not to say that it isn’t an important device in the history of personal technology but my mobile needs are already catered for by a netbook (3G and WiFi capable), a device which Steve Jobs dismissed as ‘not really good at anything’.Well at least it can run the flash plugin which the iPhone and iPad do not.Oh and voip/skype. Okay no access to Apple’s app store or iBook or the print media portal but I can download eBooks from our local library and subscribe to PressDisplay to read newspapers from around the world.Oh and plug it into a larger monitor if required.And it has a real keyboard that’s not an optional extra. The point is I don’t find a netbook that limiting.

But then maybe the iPad is just not aimed at me.Or is is that the fabled Steve Jobs  reality distortion field isn’t working on me these days? I wait with interest the unveiling of the special inflated UK pricing for the iPad models when Apple get around to launching it in the UK in June.

ARM Netbooks On Their Way

Maplin seem to have yet another curiosity up for grabs in their netbook department (Maplin are perhaps the UK’s only surviving equivalent of Tandy/Radio Shack. A curious mix of electronic items and components. Always selling solar power panels whenever I’ve caught sight of a store).a68jj

Anyway they are selling a netbook for £129 which has two distinguishing features. One the operating system installed is Windows CE which is a kind of cut down Windows often found on PDA’s and the internal architecture inside this 650g mini device is ARM based which is again more often found in mobile phones.

Compared to architectures like Intel’s atom processor the ARM architecture brings the advantage of being an even lower power consumer and offering a much extended battery life. One disadvantage is that you can’t just turn around and install Windows XP because XP is just not available to run on ARM processors.

You could at a pinch try installing the recently released Ubuntu Linux for ARM and though the 4GB internal solid state hard drive & 128MB might just accommodate (OK more memory would be better) you currently don’t have a lot of other options…yet.

Outside of the UK ARM based netbooks running Windows CE and Linux have been offered below $100 and over the next few months we’re likely to see many more ARM based devices on the market running Linux and especially Google’s Android OS which at present has only be available on a very small number of phones.

So whilst Microsoft’s Windows 7,due for release in October may finally be a viable netbook OS option it demands considerably more in terms of host hardware specifications and hence will push Win7 based netbook offerings up the pricing scale. We may see a fair amount of low cost netbooks and Internet browsing devices based on ARM becoming more readily available on-line and along the high street.

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Netbook On The Starting Block


With Asus promising a £130 netbook sometime in 2009 the low cost netbook niche is joined by Maplin’s offering which receives a temporary price cut down to just below £140.

This gives you a 7 inch screened netbook with a debian sourced linux pre-installed on a 2GB nand flash inbuilt memory. Expansion via USB and SD cards is possible.


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Acer Aspire One Netbook Quick Look

I got to play with an Acer Aspire One netbook recently. Netbooks are generally smaller than laptops and aimed more at the digital nomad who doesn’t need the full bells and whistles of a fully featured laptop. This particular Acer Aspire one had an 8GB solid state drive that can be expanded via an SD expansion port. A second SD card slot lets you use an additional flash card for storage. WiFi was easy to configure and the 8.9 inch screen presented a high resolution image for its size.

The OS supplied is Linpus, a version of the Red Hat derived Fedora Core linux and loads in seconds from hitting the on button. This version of Linpus uses a panels style interface rather than the usual desktop arrangement though it’s relatively easy to get to the terminal and apply some gentle hacking to allow access to the conventional XFCE based system that lies underneath.

For me netbooks are better value for money than a mobile phone with Internet access whilst being more portable. flexible and robust than many laptops. The Aspire one can be purchased for as little as £199 and competes well with the Asus Eeepc, especially the newer models that are being supplied with a 6 cell battery.

Slideshare presentation available in full screen here

Photos included by jarsjo (under this creative commons license) and Alexandre Fugita (under this creative commons license)

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